Obama: My Brother’s Keeper initiative is ‘just the beginning’

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address during the launch of the “My Brother’s Keeper initiative”., February 27, 2014. PHOTO/White House

U.S. President Barack Obama will be out of office when the 3rd anniversary of the public-private initiative he started to help create educational and other opportunities for boys and young men of color rolls around next year, so he celebrated a few weeks early on Wednesday.

Addressing a White House summit on the My Brother’s Keeper program, Obama urged more people to become mentors and role models to show young people from broken homes or poor or crime-ridden neighborhoods that there is a better path for them to choose.

“This is just the beginning,” said Obama, who barely knew his father and was raised by his mother and her parents. “We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead and make sure that they have got a chance to contribute.”

“And we are going to need more of you to be mentors and role models and for this next generation,” he said.

Obama launched the program in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color. Communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are running their own My Brother’s Keeper programs. The private sector and philanthropies have committed US$1 billion to the effort, and federal initiatives are underway to help level the field in education and other areas.

The federal initiatives could be undone after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, although Trump spoke often during the presidential campaign of his desire to make life better for minorities and inner-city residents.

Broderick Johnson, an assistant to Obama and head of the My Brother’s Keeper task force, said the work will continue through the state and other efforts.

Obama said the nation needs the talents of every American to stay competitive. He said that means valuing and investing in every child and helping them go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them.

A father of two teenage daughters, including one bound for Harvard in the fall of 2017, the president said he hopes to expand My Brother’s Keeper to include more teens, including those housed in juvenile facilities and prisons.

“This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life,” Obama said.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press